“Iodine is essential for healthy brain development in the fetus and young child. Iodine deficiency negatively affects the health of women, as well as economic productivity and quality of life,” WHO.
Iodine deficiency has long been linked to a condition called goiter. Our thyroid glands depend on iodine to regulate and secrete hormones. Iodine deficiency, therefore, gives rise to an enlarged thyroid (endemic goiter). Lack of iodine has also been linked to neurological and gastrointestinal disorders as well as slow metabolism, hypothyroidism and weight gain. While the iodine required by our body is easily met through the diet of those living in coastal areas and consuming saltwater seafood, others may not usually get enough iodine from their daily diet. Therefore, fortifying foods with iodine was deemed essential by international health regulatory bodies.
While reports suggest that close to 2 million people are grappling with iodine deficiency around the world, using iodised salts has long been seen as an inexpensive and highly effective medium to promote good health, prevent non-communicable diseases like goiter and other neurological and development disorders. According to the American Thyroid Association, “Iodine is an element that is needed for the production of the thyroid hormone. The body does not make iodine, so it is an essential part of your diet. Approximately 40% of the world’s population remains at risk for iodine deficiency. Iodine is present naturally in soil and seawater.” says the official website.
Some of the food items and ingredients that contain small amounts of iodine would include milk, yogurt, cheese, saltwater ingredients, eggs, soymilk and soy sauce. Areas where easy availability of these items becomes difficult largely depend on iodized salts as the only way to source iodine from the diet.
“Iodised salts were developed to create a standard product that would supply iodine to one and all. Since it is required in small quantities, salt proved as an apt carrier as people usually have a standard intake pattern for salt. Consuming iodised salt is not necessary and not consuming it won’t necessarily translate into a person becoming iodine deficient. It is similar to the case of vitamin D. Since Vitamin D is naturally present in such few food ingredients, supplements or fortified foods tend to become a more feasible ways to source it,” shares Dr. Sunil Sharma, Head of Emergency and General Physician at Pt. Madan Mohan Malviya Hospital, Delhi.
Experts suggest that the rising trend of ‘clean eating’ and most people getting allergic or intolerant to milk may give rise to nutritional deficiency. Seafood is high in iodine, but not everyone enjoys eating seafood. Given our ever-changing contemporary diets, choosing iodised salts as a way to give the body its daily dose of iodine may be a good option.